Four storylines to watch heading into Travelers Championship

Published on Wednesday, 20 June 2018 20:39
Written by DAVID GLOVACH

@DavidGlovach

There’s always plenty of excitement in the area surrounding the Travelers Championship. It will be hard to match the way Jordan Spieth ended the 2017 Travelers, but with the quality of names coming to TPC River Highlands it certainly has a chance.

Here are some things to watch heading into the Travelers Championship:

STAR-STUDDED FIELD

The Travelers Championship has always done a good job of bringing in big names to play at the tournament and it showed in the quality of play last year, especially on the final day. But the 2018 tournament might be its best to date in terms of the talent level descending upon TPC River Highlands. Fans will get to watch some of golf’s biggest stars this weekend, setting the stage for what looks to be one of the most competitive fields of the season for a non-major.

It is especially strong at the top with five of the top 10 players in the world - Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day - and nine of the top 20, meaning every player has their work cut out for them.

Spieth won the event last season off a dramatic bunker shot to win in a playoff against Daniel Berger, while Koepka enters the tournament fresh off his second U.S. Open win in a row.

Overall, there are 11 former major winners in this year’s field: Thomas, Koepka, Spieth, McIlroy, Day, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell and Patrick Reed.

NOT THE US OPEN

There has been plenty of talk over the past week about the U.S. Open, which was played at Shinnecock with the players leading the way. Many were vocal about the course, a par-70 and 7,440 yards, that proved to be less than ideal to play a major on. No player finished par or better with the champion, Brooks Koepka, taking the tournament with a 1-over and plenty of other big names failed to even make the cut.

TPC River Highlands should offer a dramatic difference from that. At almost 600 yards less than Shinnecock at a par-70, 6,841 yards, low scores are going to be needed to remain competitive in a crowded field. Something as simple as a poor drive or bad putt early on could prove to be costly by the end of the weekend.

The top four finishers last year - Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, Charley Hoffman and Danny Lee - all finished double digits under par with three others finishing at 9-under.

LOOKING TO REPEAT

When he tees off today, Jordan Spieth, the No. 5 golfer in the world will begin his quest to do something that no player has done at TPC River Highlands since 2001 and that’s win the event in back-to-back years.

Phil Mickelson was the last to do so and that was when it was called the Canon Greater Hartford Open.

Spieth will certainly have some tough competition along the way with 10 other former major winner taking part and comes in in a less than ideal situation, having missed the cuts at the last two tournaments he’s played in - the Memorial and U.S. Open.

But the 24-year-old has shown the ability during his time on the PGA Tour to use a win and go on a run in future tournaments.

It will be interesting to see if this week at the Travelers provides Spieth with that opportunity.

STILL RISING

It has already been quite the season for Brooks Koepka. After a wrist injury sidelined him for 3½ months, the No. 4 golfer in the world appears to be rounding back into form. He became the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens last Sunday.

Of course, it hasn’t been all that smooth since returning. Koepka battled through a rib injury at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the week before the U.S. Open and as a result, finished in a tie for 30th. But overall this season, the 28-yeaer-old has played at a consistently high level since his return. He placed second at the Fort Worth Invitational and tied for 11th at The Players Championship.

It will definitely be worth watching how he responds to playing in three tournaments in as many weeks, but there’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t be among the leaders entering the weekend should he make the cut.



Posted in New Britain Herald, General Sports on Wednesday, 20 June 2018 20:39. Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2018 20:41.